There are plenty of ways to explore York: the top deck of a tour bus, cruising on a riverboat, getting on your bike or even by electric scooter. But there’s no doubt that one of the best ways to discover the city is on foot. York’s one of the most walkable cities in the UK, and there are lots of ways to make walking fun, from the Little Vikings I Spy Trail (designed especially with children in mind) to the York Cat Trail. Perhaps York’s most iconic walk is the circular walk around the York walls, which is a brilliant thing to do with children. Here are five reasons we’d recommend it for families, whether they’re visiting or living in York.
1. You’ll enjoy some of the best views of York
There’s no better way to see York from a different perspective than to walk the city’s medieval walls. We particularly love the section from Bootham Bar that takes you behind York Minster and Gray’s Court Hotel (above). The walls are elevated enough to give excellent views of almost the whole of the city centre – and beyond – but not so high as to be terrifying! There are sections that don’t have handrails and can feel precarious to anyone who isn’t comfortable with heights, so it’s better suited to older children who can reliably walk in a straight line than to unpredictable toddlers. Unfortunately, this isn’t a buggy-friendly walk, so baby carriers are the best option if you’d like to try it with a little one.
2. It’s an exciting way to walk around the city
Nothing will fire the imagination of a knight-loving child more than adventuring along these real medieval walls, pretending to defend the city from invaders! Peep through the slit windows, keep lookout from the battlements and get inspiration for fort-building at home from the incredible bars (these are the gatehouses to the city: Micklegate Bar, Monk Bar, Bootham Bar and Walmgate Bar). It’s history brought to life, and a memorable experience for the whole family.
3. You can drop off for refreshments on your way around
Exhausted from your endeavours? It’s time to refuel, and you’re not short of options. Although there around two miles of walls to explore, the circuit isn’t intact. This means that you’ll have to drop off into the city and walk a short distance to pick the walls up at the next point. This is the perfect excuse to stop for a drink or something to eat before you continue on your way, and there’s no shortage of lovely family-friendly cafes and restaurants – indoor and out – that will be happy to oblige.
4. It changes with the seasons
York’s city walls are famous for their daffodils, bursting into yellow at the end of March and cheering everyone up until around the end of April. It’s an Instagrammable sight to behold, and a very good reason to visit York in the springtime. That said, the walls are beautiful throughout the seasons, whether they’re dusted in snow, glistening in frost or surrounded by autumn leaves. Note that the walls are closed in the event of snow and ice – very wise!
5. It’s free!
There are plenty of things to do in York for free, from visiting the National Railway Museum to exploring green spaces like York Museum Gardens and doing the Little Vikings I Spy Trail (find our best free things to do in York here). A walk around the city walls is free, too, and definitely one of our top things to do in York for families.
Good to know
During the pandemic, York’s city walls have been one-way only to allow for social distancing. This has now changed but keep an eye out in case it changes again. The opening and closing hours vary throughout the year and depending on the weather, so do check before you travel (https://www.york.gov.uk/CityWalls).